Amend the University Of Michigan's Race and Ethnicity Requirement (Across all 3 Campuses)

Amend the University Of Michigan's Race and Ethnicity Requirement (Across all 3 Campuses)

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Yashasvini Nannapuraju started this petition to University of Michigan

Purpose: This petition addresses changes that need to be made to the Race and Ethnicity requirement at the University of Michigan. In light of the recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, and far too many in the past, we have an obligation to be a substantive part of this ongoing dialogue regarding racial justice and equality. We, students at the University of Michigan, believe that the University needs to address issues with the Race and Ethnicity requirement to truly take steps towards combating racism on campus. The University of Michigan, a world-renowned institution that is known as the home of the leaders and best, has an obligation to its students and educators to step up and spearhead educational reform at the collegiate level. 

Our Call to Action: These ideas originated from a 2018 article by The Michigan Daily Editorial Board. These changes have not been made so we are choosing to bring them up again. The first two petition points are specific to the College of Literature, Science and Arts (LSA). These points are especially critical because LSA accepts the highest number of freshman. Additionally, many students use the LSA Race and Ethnicity designated classes to satisfy R&E prerequisites to apply into other programs such as the Gerald School of Public Policy and the School of Public Health. The latter two petition points apply to all undergraduate schools at the University. 

1. The LSA required focus guidelines of the Race and Ethnicity requirement must be more specific to race issues within the United States. 
      a. The guidelines currently state, “Although it is hoped that many of these courses will focus on the United States, it is not required that they do so. Courses that deal with these issues in other societies, or that study them comparatively, may also meet the requirement.”
      b. These open-ended guidelines leave students with the choice to be ignorant to race issues within the United States. Ignorance is not a choice and should not be tolerated by the University. Being educated about issues within the United States is paramount to a student being prepared to enter his or her career. Students need to think critically about relevant race issues. 

2. The required focus class guidelines should require classes to be highly focused on systemic, institutional, environmental and other race issues within the U.S. 
      a. “Every course satisfying the requirement must devote substantial, but not necessarily exclusive, attention to the required content.”
      b. In a 2018 article, The Michigan Daily Editorial Board discussed how “substantial” is not clearly defined in the guidelines. The Editorial Board wrote, “This, along with the extent of classes which fulfill the requirement, provides too much room for vague connections to race and ethnicity rather than a structured focus.”

3. This requirement should be expanded to all undergraduate schools. 
      a. Considering undergraduate schools that accept direct matriculates,the RE requirement is currently only mandatory for LSA, the School of Art & Design, and very recently, the School of Music, Theatre & Dance students. Cultural competence and the ability to interact with diverse groups of people is important-regardless of the field of study

4. More than one Race and Ethnicity course should be mandatory. 
We propose having an introductory first-year Race and Ethnicity course required for all students, followed by an upper-level RE course that is focused on race issues as they relate a student’s own interest or future career field. 

Background and Historical Context: 

The requirement grew out of student-led protests by the Black Action Movement (BAM) III and United Coalition Against Racism (UCAR) in the late 1980s, said Angela Dillard, Professor of Afroamerican and African Studies and in the Residential College, and chair of the 2015-2016 R&E Review Committee.

"Members of the two organizations blocked the Fleming Administration Building to protest a series of events on campus that they considered to be racist, to demand an increase in black enrollment and the number of black faculty members, and to insist on changes to the curriculum. The protests led to LSA faculty in 1990 approving the addition of a race and ethnicity (R&E) requirement. UCAR ‘applauded the sincerity of the faculty’ but did not support the proposal, which they believed did not go far enough…” (Vloet 2015). 

According to The Michigan Daily, LSA was in the process of reviewing the requirement in 2016. The LSA R&E taskforce was in charge of conducting quantitative and qualitative research to inform recommendations about changes that needed to be made to the requirement. This included focus groups, surveys, evaluation, and administrative data, historical research, and discourse analysis as examples of the research involved in such a process. On Jan. 11, 2016, students who fulfilled their R&E requirement in the fall received an email inviting them to participate in an online Canvas-based discussion of the race & ethnicity degree requirement. Additionally, approximately 70 students were invited to two forums where many expressed a desire for greater relevance in their R&E classes and favored content and courses focusing on issues of race and ethnicity applicable to society today. The study laid out what students want to glean from the requirement but these learning goals have not yet been fully incorporated into the requirement. Following the review, a new position was created in Michigan’s teaching center specifically to support instructional development for faculty members teaching R&E courses or teaching about race more broadly. However, little to no major changes were made to the requirement's structure or focus guidelines following the review. 


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